Trekking in Nepal

Nepal Customs Excess Cash

In 1992, when Pema was to be the guide for the New Zealand Mount Everest expedition, he was returning to Kathmandu carrying the equivalent of US $60,000 in cash for purchasing supplies. (At the time he also had to pay another $55,000 for the Mt. Everest expedition permit.) As he arrived at the airport he hid the cash in his bag under a lot of dirty clothes. As he reached the customs station he played it cool, but suggested to the agent it wasn’t necessary to look through this dirty shorts, and he was very lucky the agent didn't look much further. All of the cash was just a couple of boxers away. It would have been difficult explaining where it came from, much less coming away without a contribution to the customs official.

Pema also had some bottles of Black Label whiskey in another bag that he set on the table. He was so glad that the agent passed him on that he just got up and left and got straight into a taxi. He soon realized that he had forgotten the precious bottles on the table, so he immediately demanded that the driver turn around and take him back. Pema went back into the airport, but the customs station was in the 'Exiting Passengers' area. A guard stopped him. Thinking fast, Pema pretended to be someone important, since he was wearing his Nepali “topes” hat, which usually only Nepali government officials wear. Pema told the guard that he knew some other very important people and he shouldn't be bothered, or it would be trouble later for the guard. Pema just stormed past him into the customs area, straight to the table, and miraculously the bottles were still there. The customs agent just happened to be looking away at that moment, so Pema swiped the bottles and evacuated to the taxi.

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